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Candidates tout experience

November 01, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Both candidates for the newly created Maryland House of Delegates seat in southern Frederick and Washington counties say they have the experience to handle the job.

Republican Richard B. Weldon Jr. cites his background as a Frederick County Commissioner and a municipal government administrator.

Democrat Lisa Baugher refers to her grassroots efforts to stop Duke Energy from building a power plant in southern Frederick County.

"As a citizen without the benefit of a political office, I went up against big energy and big corporations," she said. "As one citizen uniting the community and working within the process, I turned things around and produced results."

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Baugher likes to point out that she's been called "the Erin Brockovich of Frederick County," referring to the woman who almost single-handedly brought down a California power company accused of polluting a city's water supply.

Weldon acknowledged her efforts but said he, too, opposed Duke Energy's power plant bid.

"My range of experience is a lot more broad than hers," said Weldon, who has worked as Brunswick's city administrator and Frederick's chief operating officer. "I have been helping people solve problems in the government arena and making sure local government meets their expectations."

Weldon said his top priority is making sure the state increases education funding and he is willing to back the idea of legalizing slot machines to meet the hefty price tag.

"If you don't come up with a way to fund that priority you're not being intellectually honest with the voters," he said.

Baugher said she is open-minded about slot machines. Before she makes up her mind, however, she would need to see more research and information about legalization in other states.

"I try to listen to all sides, do research and just get the whole picture," she said.

When it comes to the state's $1.7 billion budget deficit, Baugher said she doesn't think the state will have to raise taxes to fill that gap. In her experience working with various state agencies, Baugher said she's seen areas where the state can cut its budget, although she declined to give specifics.

Weldon said he won't support tax increases. He said he plans to suggest cuts after building consensus among other lawmakers.

Another big issue for Weldon is the state's Smart Growth policy. While it has done a good job of protecting farmland, he said it hasn't prepared the state's urban centers to handle growth, which has resulted in school overcrowding and highway gridlock.

Baugher agreed that Smart Growth hasn't done all it has promised. Developers are still building isolated housing developments when they need to build more traditional communities where people can walk or bike to get a quart of milk or visit neighbors, she said.

Whoever is elected to the District 3B delegate's job will make an annual salary of $34,500 in 2003. The pay will increase by $3,000 a year in each of the following three years, reaching $43,500 in 2006.

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